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Up to Snuff

Posted on Friday September 23rd, 2016 @ 2:07pm by Commander Magnus Sterling

Mission: Enemies Closer
Location: Main Engineering
Timeline: MD 2, 0700 Hours

In his attempt to familiarize himself with Excelsior and crew, Commander Magnus Alastair Sterling found himself in main engineering. The cavernous hold dominated by the soothing rhythmic pulsing of the warp core, the pleasantness belied the violent mutual annihilation of opposing forms of matter spewing forth deathly radiation and enormous energy, safely contained behind precariously balanced magnetic fields, fragile dilithium crystals, and a duranium shell. That space travel was possible at all with such a delicate instrument spoke volumes to the analytical and creative minds of sentient species across the Federation.

He marveled as the engineers went about their business, a ship as large and complicated as Excelsior required a large engineering department to keep every facet of her operation in top working condition.

“Commander.” Maddox had approached, PADD in hand. “What can I do for you?” His subordinates in engineering had messaged that the XO had arrived in engineering. At first Maddox didn’t register why they had sent him this information, then he realized and left his office to find the man.

"Ah lieutenant Maddox. I'm touring the ship, getting a feel for our crew. I don't mean to intrude, I know you're still getting settled in but if you aren't too busy I'd like to get your impressions of the ship, her systems, and your department." Sterling had never had the opportunity to work with a Benzite before, he wondered how well the man was integrating with the crew.

Maddox didn’t see how this was an intrusion, so he said nothing about it, as in his culture it was more polite to just let such a thing go unmentioned. “I am not too busy.” Maddox tried to reassure the XO, who had every right to hear a report. “The ship and her systems are capable, and doing better than could be expected given recent events, which I feel is a reflection on her crew. I have seen nothing but competence and adequacy.”

Sterling nodded. "Very good. How about a tour, lieutenant?"

“Yes sir. Did you want to focus on engineering exclusively or would you like to see the entire ship?” Maddox knew that nearly everyone else, humans anyway, would understand automatically what the XO meant. Maddox did not, and had learned long ago to ask clarifying questions.

"Engineering, please. I'll receive tours from the rest of the department heads. I like to know what goes on around here, day to day, special projects, training and drills, team readiness and responsiveness. I want to know what I can expect as a matter of routine and in an emergency. I know Starfleet has a minimum expectation, but we're a ship of the line and as such should be exemplary. So show me how exemplary your department and crew are, lieutenant."

That sounded easy enough to Maddox since he had just received a similar tour very recently. It was all still very fresh in his mind. “Yes sir. I will begin by going over the standard duty assignment structure. If the ship is not on alert, then at the beginning of every shift a level five diagnostic is performed on their typically assigned department, and then on a separate team’s equipment. That ensure cross-training among the teams and familiarity with multiple systems. If any irregularities come up they show in the report and are sent to team leaders, who will coordinate personnel to look into the matter. Usually it involves the crew who discovered the irregularity and the specialist who oversees that department.”

“If those reports come back with no issues or irregularities then the crew person will move onto their day’s assignment. That too is guided by the their team’s leader. Usually that involves their specialty, but will always include multiple objectives for the day. That is done to combat boredom, and allow for some independent time management.”

“There are a few breaks allowed, usually a longer one for a meal, approximately mid-shift. It varies species to species what the needs are for the individual.” Maddox felt this part was obvious, but it had been relayed to him, so he was keeping it in the tour. “And finally once the shift assignments are completed to the satisfaction of the team leader the remainder of the shift is to be spent studying for additional certifications and also on P.E.T.s or P.E.T. projects.”

“That stands for Personal Engineering Time. It could be an experiment, an enhancement to an existing piece of equipment, or anything else designed to enhance Starfleet technology. End-of-shift time is monitored as we want a balance of both education and experimentation for each member of engineering.”

“Should the ship be on alert, then crew report to their action stations.” Maddox felt this too was obvious. “Did you have any questions about the schedule?”

Sterling shook his head. "That all sounds appropriate to me. I am quite delighted you encourage personal growth of your team members. I've served with many engineers who tended to treat their subordinates like mere cogs in a machine that served a specific function and no further. While that proved effective in a narrow scope of situations, it often required a chief engineer with a penchant for micromanagement and a resilience to stress beyond mortal men and women." Sterling chuckled, recalling something from his past. "Speaking of management, how is your department organized?"

“All noncommissioned engineering personnel are assigned to teams. My assistant Ensign Esri Lillim is assigned to coordinate with our senor specialist, computer systems specialist and damage control. Ensign Stanton Haught is assigned the warp-core, structural and environmental teams. I coordinate with my officers and will hopefully put in face-time with all departments. This is after all my second day on the ship.”

“All that being said we can actually get on with the tour.” Maddox gestured for the XO to follow. “We have offices here at main engineering. Each officer has their own. P.E.T. projects happen in the holodeck or in science labs. They undergo rigorous testing before actual field trials. Too many accidents have occurred because someone had ‘an idea’.”

Sterling nodded slowly. "Exploration isn't just about going to new places, but about developing new ideas as well. I do, quite fondly, recall the zeal of experimentation with new concepts and technical applications. You are right however to curb trials until thorough examination warrants in ordinary operating conditions. However, as happens frequently in Starfleet, situations require a bit more audacious inspiration and daring implementation. Confidence in yourself and your team can lead to as much success as a thoroughly examined, simulated, and tested proposal. Starfleet chief engineers are often called upon to do the impossible. Don't let a lack of preparedness hold you back in a pinch."

“Yes sir.” Maddox had often seen the Human fondness for ‘cowboy engineering’, but he had no knack for it. His personal list of P.E.T. projects was small and unimpressive. Feeling this issue had been addressed adequately, Maddox continued the tour.

“These areas are storage, this room is for maintenance. We have dual clean-rooms beyond that for specialized work, or sensitive equipment refurbishing. This area is for ship monitoring. There is a station on the bridge that can mimic about 60% of what this room does, however those limitations are negligible in a routine mission. I believe you’ve already seen the warp core. It goes up and down nearly the entire height of this part of the ship. And over here we have the engineering assembly workstation. This allows for efficiency coordination and cooperation across multiple teams simultaneously. This is one of four such workstations placed strategically throughout the ship.”

“As far as emergency drills go, I only have the reports from previous exercises. I have not had the time to go through them, however it seems of late all the ship’s missions have included high-pressure tests of one sort or another.”

"High-pressure," well that's one way to put it, Sterling thought. "Excelsior is a very high profile starship, her missions and challenges are commensurate with that as is the danger. After recent events in the quadrant, I fully expect all of that to increase considerably, compounded with a lack of support from the rest of the fleet or from home. I suggest your future drills and training reflect the added challenges and difficulty we will very likely face."

“I will see to it personally.” Maddox assured Sterling. He decided he would rely on input of others in his department as well. Maddox himself would create scenarios ‘by-the-book’ but it was clear the XO wanted something more. “Also, I will make sure you receive a copy of the results.”

"Yes, I think that sounds wonderful," Sterling said. As the tour ended, they arrived back at main engineering. Sterling took some time to glance over some of the workstation's displays. Modern engines were a bit more complicated than back in his day as an engineer, but nothing stood out as concerning for him. "Well, I look forward to another tour once you've had some time to settle in properly and really leave your mark here."

“Yes sir.” Maddox felt a little surprised at how relieved he felt that this tour was over. From all appearances it had gone well. Maddox had never been assigned to oversee a department before, had never been responsible for so many people. Once again he ignored the tiny voice inside that warned he was in over his head. “You are welcome any time.”


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